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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 14, 2007
I'm working my way through the Hartwell & Cramer SPACE OPERA RENAISSANCE anthology, and finding it well-done and to my taste -- I think it's Hartwell's best BIG review-anthology yet. Truly a doorstop: 940+ pages!, with a surprisingly large number of new-to-me stories.

Space Opera, as Hartwell points out in his nicely-done introductory essay and story notes, is a flexible concept. And when you get to New Space Opera, or Widescreen Baroque Space Opera -- well, no one really knows what these are. Really, space opera is what Hartwell (or whoever) points to when he says "space opera"...

Anyway, take a look at this juicy lineup:

(my faves are starred*)

Introduction: *How Shlt became Shinola, Definition & Redefinition of Space Opera, by Hartwell & Cramer

I. Redefined Writers

"The Star Stealers" by Edmond Hamilton

"The Prince of Space" by Jack Williamson

"Enchantress of Venus" by Leigh Brackett

*"The Swordsmen of Varnis" by Clive Jackson

II. Draftees (1960s)

***"The Game of Rat & Dragon" by Cordwainer Smith

"Empire Star" by Samuel R. Delany

"Zirn Left Unguarded, the Jenjik Palace in Flames, Jon Westerly Dead" by Robert Sheckley

III. Transitions/Redefiners (late 1970s to late 1980s)

*"Temptation" by David Brin

"Ranks of Bronze" by David Drake

*"Weatherman" by Lois McMaster Bujold

"A Gift from the Culture" by Iain M. Banks

IV. Volunteers:Revisionaries (early 90s)

*"Orphans of the Helix" by Dan Simmons

"The Well Wishers" by Colin Greenland

*"Escape Route" by Peter Hamilton

"Ms Midshipwoman Harrington" by David Weber

"Aurora in Four Voices" by Catherine Asaro

**"Ring Rats" by R. Garcia y Robertson

*"The Death of Captain Future" by Allen Steele

V. Mixed Signals/ Mixed Categories (to the late 1990s)

*"A Worm in the Well" by Gregory Benford

**"The Survivor" by Donald Kingsbury

"Fools Errand" by Sarah Zettel

"The Shobies Story" by Ursula K. Le Guin

"The Remoras" by Robert Reed

"Recording Angel" by Paul McAuley

"The Great Game" by Steven Baxter

"Lost Sorceress of the Silent Citadel" by Michael Moorcock

"Space Opera" by Michael Kandel

VI. Next Wave (21st Century)

"Grist" by Tony Daniel

"The Movements of her Eyes" by Scott Westerfeld

*"Spirey and the Queen" by Alastair Reynolds

*"Bear Trap" by Charles Stross

"Guest Law" by John C. Wright

Some story comments:

"The Game of Rat & Dragon" (1955) by Cordwainer Smith. My favorite Smith classic, which is to say one of the best SF shorts ever, Hasn't dated one bit in a half-century. Meow!

Dan Simmons' "Orphans of the Helix" (1999, _Far Horizons_), is a tasty, atmospheric and thoroughly space-operatic travel-adventure, set in the Hyperian Cantos universe. Pure travelogue and goshwow, mind --allegedly, this started life as a TV treatment. Would have made a nice show, if the SFX turned out well....

There's a new-to-me David Brin short: "Temptation" (1999), Streaker dolphins in Jijo's ocean. Quite a nice one, and reminds me of the good bits in the Jijo books -- like the sheer audacity of (literally) scraping a technical civilization into the ocean. In theory, anyway <G>. Those tricky Buyurs!

Donald Kingsbury's long novella "The Survivor" (1991) is set in Larry Niven's Known Space universe, during the Man/Kzin wars, and is a proxy for Niven, a Space Opera King who's notably absent. It's the first half of his Lt. Nora Argamentine saga, set just after the Fall of Wunderland. John Clute thought it one of the best stories of 1991, and so do I.

"Ring Rats" (2002) by R. Garcia y Robertson: Space pirates! --pure adrenaline rush, with some nasty bits. Strong stuff, one of his best yet.

"Spirey and the Queen" (1996) by Alastair Reynolds: which has "some of that space-war sizzle and true weirdness that we see as a primary appeal of late-model space opera" -- Hartwell

Anyway, there's a ton of good stories here, most of which you'll be happy to add to your permanent library. Check it out.

Happy reading--

Peter D. Tillman

Review first published at SF Site
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
This is a big book and it felt like a big book to read since I could easily put it down. Lots of stories. Some good, some not so good. The surprising thing about this book was that it wasn't more upbeat. When I think of Space Opera I think Star Wars but that kind of fun is a throwback in todays Sci-Fi universe. These stories were very modern and although thought provoking a lot ended with a feeling of 'so what' or 'where's the fun'.

Michael J. Foy
Author of The Kennedy Effect
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16 of 22 people found the following review helpful
In the Introduction to this superb anthology, space opera was coined by Bob Tucker in 1941: "In these hectic days of phrase coning, we offer one. Westerns are called "horse operas," the morning housewife tear-jerkers are called "soap operas." For the hacky, grinding, stinking, outworn space ship yarn, or world saving for that matter, we offer space opera." By 1959 the connotation remained "A hack science fiction story, a dressed up western" as noted by Fancyclopedia II. By the 1960s space opera was considered dead. Yet today it is alive, well, and highly regarded as its reputation changed as "sh*t became Shinola". This terrific compilation pays tribute to space opera tales from various decades starting with a delightful Edmond Hamilton tale from 1929 to a Stephen Baxter contribution from 2003; the entries showcase the evolution and make an analytical argument that even cheap pulp fiction in outer space can be well written. The break out by decades is as follows: 1920s - 1; 1930s - 1; 1940s - 1; 1950s - 2; 1960s - 1; 1970s - 1; 1980s - 3; 1990s - 16; 2000s - 6. Though the spread is heavily the 1990s (half the entries) with some readers fascinated with the sub-genre roots wanting more of the older entries, the contributions are from a who's who, who come through with superb tales. This is must reading for science fiction short story fans.

Harriet Klausner
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on September 10, 2006
As someone whose own work has been describe as intelligent space opera, I love this book just for the statment on the dust jacket that:

Space Opera, once a derisive term for cheap pulp adventure, has come to mean something more in modern SF: compelling adventure stories told against a broad canvas and written to the highest level of skill. Indeed, it can be argued that the "new space opera" is one of the defining streams of modern SF.

I confess I thought it was more of an academic analysis than an anthology when I bought it, but now I'm looking forward to the sampling of works from different times and tangents, instead. There is an element of academic analysis, as well, in the introduction.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 22, 2007
Just finished reading this monster, (940-plus pages), and all I can say is "Wow!" After 50-plus years of reading SF I would have thought at least one of these stories would be a re-read. No way! They were all new to me and I give a big, "two thumbs UP" for nearly every one. The editors are to be commended for an excellent job with their introductions to the stories and lots of eclectic info on the authors. I honestly can't remember reading another anthology with such a majority of very good stories. If you are new to SF and wish to know about the various definitions of the term 'space opera', or, if you are an old hand, like me, and wish to dine on a sumptious buffet of the sub-genre stretching from it's very beginnings to the present, this book should not be overlooked. I just ordered the editor's companion volume "The Hard SF Renaissance" based solely on the quality of the stories included in this volume.
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As with any anthology, there were hits and there were misses. Mostly, I enjoyed the stories. The historical context provided by the editor definitely helped to structure the anthology and explain certain aesthetic choices. My biggest gripe was with the copy editing, which was absolutely terrible; spelling and punctuation mistakes were rampant and really got to be distracting after a while. Otherwise, worth reading.
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on September 13, 2010
* Most of this anthology is composed of stories. However, the editors also incomprehensibly include one entire novel and two excerpts. The novel is long, based in someone else's universe and not very good. One of the excerpts is quite good, but there's little I like less than an excerpt - if you do buy the novel, you've already read part of it. If you don't, you've only read part of the story.

* Normally, I enjoy the little bios and blurbs that precede or succeed stories in an anthology. In this case, however, the editors have taken such an academic tone that it pretty much kills your interest in reading the stories themselves. I also disagree with their definitions of 'space opera'. I read and considered their position, but found it uninformative, and the various categories of space opera they suggest have little to do with the stories included, and less to do with other work produced in those periods. Anthologies often have a feeling not so much of consistent concept as of "random stories we got from our friends." This one is no different. You won't really learn much about space opera (by any definition) here.

* The editors make much of a posited distinction between British and US science fiction. I suppose they may be right - they quote a lot of people (mostly British) who seem to agree. But I read a LOT of science fiction (both British and US), and I've never thought much about it. I like certain authors and not others; some are British, some are American. Their nationality has made zero difference to my enjoyment or selection criteria. So while it's a big deal to the editors, at least one very well-read member of the audience couldn't care less.

* Leaving aside the pompous analysis, the artificial distinctions, the random selection, and the occasional bit of novel... - this anthology does collect some good work, and a wide selection of authors. If you can pick it up cheap at a discount bookstore, go to it. Otherwise, I suggest looking elsewhere. I certainly won't be picking up the editors' companion volume (Hard SF Renaissance).
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on December 12, 2007
Firstly, the Space Opera Renaissance is a good book, and one that has been fascinating me for a while, now. You can see this by the story average of 3.61 over a significant number of stories. Throw in the intro and the story intros and you have something approaching excellent, even. You could stretch the rating for the book to 4.25, perhaps.

Hartwell and Cramer are clear leaders as far as editors go in writing introductions to stories, where they actually do provide opinion and guidance, rather than a dry, used car salesman list of previous publications and upcoming work that might be as much science fiction as Snow White or Law and Order, and not relevant at all. While it is nice to promote writers and not hurt the poor darlings feelings - that shouldnt' bother editors, they do that every day with a whole bunch of 'No', it is their job, after all. Lists of publications ignore the silly geographically split up publishing market, and might be irrelevant to large chunks of the readers who only hang out in bookshops, anyway.

They are also unafraid to mention URLs or other resources relevant to these pieces, and editors in general could do this for space reasons when they want to expand on something a little more. So this part is very well done, and usually I read those first in their anthologies.

It is also commendable for the variety of stories and tone included, humour included.

Anyway, rambling on about this at great and likely boring length is done at the usual notfree spot for anyone that cares, and is way too long for here. The problems I see here are story choice, and actually being more clear to the unfamiliar about what they see Space Opera as, and story and author choices - two whole novels, basically? etc.

Still, a really interesting book worth having.

Space Opera Renaissance : The Star-Stealers - Edmond Hamilton
Space Opera Renaissance : The Prince of Space - Jack Williamson
Space Opera Renaissance : Enchantress of Venus - Leigh Brackett
Space Opera Renaissance : The Swordsmen of Varnis - Clive Jackson
Space Opera Renaissance : The Game of Rat and Dragon - Cordwainer Smith
Space Opera Renaissance : Empire Star - Samuel R. Delany
Space Opera Renaissance : Zirn Left Unguarded the Jenghik Palace in Flames Jon Westerly Dead - Robert Sheckley
Space Opera Renaissance : Temptation - David Brin
Space Opera Renaissance : Ranks of Bronze - David Drake
Space Opera Renaissance : Weatherman - Lois McMaster Bujold
Space Opera Renaissance : A Gift from the Culture - Iain M. Banks
Space Opera Renaissance : Orphans of the Helix - Dan Simmons
Space Opera Renaissance : The Well Wishers - Colin Greenland
Space Opera Renaissance : Escape Route - Peter F. Hamilton
Space Opera Renaissance : Ms Midshipwoman Harrington - David Weber
Space Opera Renaissance : Aurora in Four Voices - Catherine Asaro
Space Opera Renaissance : Ring Rats - R. Garcia y Robertson
Space Opera Renaissance : The Death of Captain Future - Allen Steele
Space Opera Renaissance : A Worm in the Well - Gregory Benford
Space Opera Renaissance : The Survivor - Donald Kingsbury
Space Opera Renaissance : Fools Errand - Sarah Zettel
Space Opera Renaissance : The Shobies Story - Ursula K. Le Guin
Space Opera Renaissance : The Remoras - Robert Reed
Space Opera Renaissance : Recording Angel - Paul J. McAuley
Space Opera Renaissance : The Great Game - Stephen Baxter
Space Opera Renaissance : Lost Sorceress of the Silent Citadel - Michael Moorcock
Space Opera Renaissance : Space Opera - Michael Kandel
Space Opera Renaissance : Grist - Tony Daniel
Space Opera Renaissance : The Movements of Her Eyes - Scott Westerfeld
Space Opera Renaissance : Spirey and the Queen - Alastair Reynolds
Space Opera Renaissance : Bear Trap - Charles Stross
Space Opera Renaissance : Guest Law - John C. Wright

Hey! You! Get offa my Sun!

3.5 out of 5

It's all over if the Martian Vampires nuke us, Red Rover.

3 out of 5

Stark goes looking to find a lost friend he thinks is in trouble, and ends up fomenting a slave rebellion, among other things.

4 out of 5

Spear carrier bad guy goes for the exhausted Indy solution.

3.5 out of 5

Another actual use for a live cat. Fight you little bastich.

4 out of 5

Time to teach ourselves.

3.5 out of 5

Spoof Opera.

4 out of 5

Dolphin escape and magic time diaspora subservience scheme rejection.

3.5 out of 5

Lends us your Romans for some cut price hack and slash.

3.5 out of 5

It's cold outside, but it gets so hot a time in here.

4 out of 5

Talking smoking gun.

3 out of 5

Hyperion kid and Shrike buddy pay a visit for some teleporting fun.

3.5 out of 5

Grot stop's bad art garotte.

4 out of 5

Old ship find time shift.

4 out of 5

Tactically reduced.

4 out of 5

Crankenshaft cyborg art conflict.

3 out of 5

Space slavers can't Sink The Pink.

3.5 out of 5

"Heroes are hard to find. We need to welcome them whenever they appear in our midst. You've just got to be careful to pick the right guy, because it's easy for someone to pretend to be what they're not.
Captain Future is dead. Long live Captain Future."

5 out of 5

This wormhole is mine.

4 out of 5

Call me Mellow-Yellow, hyperspatial bloodnut monkey-female.

3 out of 5

AI whispering gives me a headache.

4 out of 5

Look, it's full of stars.

3 out of 5

Serious space ship s*cker scam.

3.5 out of 5

Personality variations don't quite cut it, universal aims are worth a shot though.

4 out of 5

Muddy Star Wars.

4 out of 5

Are your MacShards gunning?

3 out of 5

Spoof Opera opera.

3 out of 5

Ferret girl proves vital in time tweaking titans massive personality conflict.

3.5 out of 5

A girl's friendship with an AI leads to physical relationship and with it, the evolution past the legal sentience barrier.

4 out of 5

"Space war is gudawful slow."

Everything is also not as it seems in this conflict, partly as a result of the above.

3 out of 5

Share intelligence.

4 out of 5

Anti-piracy intelligence is powerful.

4 out of 5
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2013
Looks like a pretty good collection of stories. This complements some of the other collections of short stories in my library. Will enjoy reading it.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on August 15, 2006
Presents stories from the entire history of space opera (although heavily biased toward more recent stories), with scholarly comments on each entry and a long, informative introduction. A good selection of enjoyable stories from some of the major writers of the form (although Vernor Vinge is inexplicably absent). The copyediting is uneven in spots, with missing or misspelled words.
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The Hard SF Renaissance by Alastair Reynolds (Paperback - October 1, 2003)

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